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Economics is one of the most popular majors here at Columbia and Barnard, and it makes sense. Doing the major seems like a direct way to a successful career on Wall Street.

That being said, you should know what you’re getting into before you actually pursue Econ as a major or a concentration! Here’s a guide to Econ at Columbia and Barnard!


Basic Overview of Barnard econ:

Barnard offers five different majors or major tracks within the economics department: general economics, economics on the political economy track, economics and mathematics, economics and social history, and economics-statistics.

All majors require Intro to Economic Reasoning (ECON BC1003), which is similar to and can be substituted with Principles of Economics at Columbia. Most of the economics majors, other than economics and social history, have three courses in common: Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory (ECON BC3033), Intermediate Microeconomic Theory (ECON BC3035), and Theoretical Foundations of Political Economy (BC3041). Note that ECON BC3035 and ECON BC3041 can be substituted with the Intermediate Microeconomics and Intermediate Macroeconomics courses at Columbia, respectively.

For nearly all of the economics majors at Barnard, math is a requirement, with Mathematical Methods for Economics (ECON BC1007) being a major part of the “quantitative dimension” of the major. Statistics for Economics (ECON BC2411) is another main component of the quantitative dimension. Certain majors, such as econ-math and econ-statistics have more intensive courses, meaning that you will need to take courses such as Calc III (MATH UN1201) and Linear Algebra (MATH UN2010), among others.


Basic Overview of Columbia econ:

Columbia offers six distinct majors and joint majors within its economics department: economics, financial economics, economics-mathematics, economics-philosophy, economics-political science, and economics-statistics.

All econ majors need to take Principles of Economics (ECON UN1105), Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON UN3211), Intermediate Macroeconomics (ECON UN3213), and Introduction to Econometrics (ECON UN3412), with the exception of econ-political science majors, who can substitute Analysis of Political Data (POLS GU4712) for Intro to Econometrics. The economics department also requires all majors to take at least Calculus I (MATH UN1101) and Calculus III (MATH UN1201), as well as Calculus-Based Introduction to Statistics (STAT UN1201).

It is also important to note that most Barnard courses do not transfer over to Columbia, especially core courses for economics (for example: while you can take Principles of Econ instead of Intro to Economic Reasoning if you’re a Barnard student, you cannot substitute Intro to Economic Reasoning for Principles of Econ if you’re a Columbia student). To see which courses are transferable from Barnard to Columbia, click here and press the “Guidelines” tab.


Where do you stand?

One big takeaway from all of this is that, for most economics courses, you’re going to need to do math. This means performing decently in the core math courses, such as Calc I and III at Columbia or Mathematical Methods for Economics and Barnard. If you’re not mathematically inclined, it may be harder to get through these courses and the economics major in general.

You should also determine whether or not you have a genuine interest in economics—it’s honestly not worth committing yourself to a major if your heart isn’t in it. The level of difficulty increases as you proceed through the major, taking courses such as micro, macro, and econometrics. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, choose a major you enjoy to maximize both your well-being and interest in classes.

If you’re not yet sure if this is the right major for you, or if you never got any exposure to econ in high school, then start out with Principles of Econ or Intro to Economic Reasoning! They are great classes to gauge whether you have an interest in or aptitude for economics at all. If you find yourself not liking basic concepts related to inflation and GDP in Principles, you’re certainly not going to like Intermediate Macro! You are also allowed to P/D/F Principles even if you decide to major in Economics, so there’s no harm in trying it out if you are curious.

If you’re seriously considering economics to broaden your career path, just know that many other disciplines will prepare you well for the post-college life. As this article notes, it is still possible to “break into finance” if you have a liberal arts degree, as long as you have the right skill sets and interests. In some cases, having a liberal arts degree could make you stand out among other applicants!


If you’re still unsure, it’s best to talk with your academic advisor or upperclassmen who are currently doing an economics major. However, just keep in mind that experience in courses differs from person to person, as well as from professor to professor.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into economics at Columbia and Barnard!

Staff writer Abhishek Hariharan can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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